Various Artists: Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans

Zeth Lundy

The morning after listening to the wealth of delectable tunes, you'll awaken with a sympathetic hangover, tasting gumbo on your tongue, and swear that you were there the night before.

Various Artists

Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens: the Big Ol' Box of New Orleans

Label: Shout! Factory
US Release Date: 2004-10-26
UK Release Date: Available as import

The city of New Orleans exists in perpetual renaissance. Each year, Mardi Gras ushers in a new phase of celebratory revival that lasts for the next 12 months. In New Orleans, there's always a reason to throw a party. While some denizens of America's puritan metropolises look at the Crescent City and see decadence, eccentricity, and an endless supply of colored beads, those of us less repressed souls know better. New Orleans is a place where musicians are reverentially called professors, voodoo is legit, fortunetellers form in cliques along the waterfront, the dead are never really dead, and food is religion.

Shout! Factory's new four-CD box set Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans rounds up a staggering 85 tracks to simply sing the praises of the Big Easy. Its selections aren't sequenced chronologically; by seating salty funk next to regal R&B or rambunctious zydeco next to seminal jazz, Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens captures the jumbled-laya vibe of the city itself. Yet no matter what their genre or year of conception, the songs all share the same desire to sing humid odes to New Orleans' food, its people, its traditions, its joie de vivre.

Like the city's laid back laissez faire attitude, Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens is an all-inclusive, all-night party. Well-known sizzlers like Dr. John's "Iko Iko", the Preservation Hall Jazz Band's "St. James Infirmary", Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven's "Potato Head Blues", and the Hawketts' "Mardi Gras Mambo" are instantly identifiable as aural postcards from the heart of New Orleans. But the box set goes beyond the familiar, fiercely heralding local talent with equal admiration. There's a plethora of homegrown music that manages to live up to even the most notorious companion tracks. Songs like the Meters' effortlessly funky "Hey Pocky A-Way", the burnt-rubber blues of Earl King's "No City like New Orleans", the polyrhythmic pulse of Dave Bartholomew's "Shrimp and Gumbo", and Professor Longhair's rollicking "Tipitina" share the inimitable stamp of the city's fertile history. Toss in live tracks by the Neville Brothers and Irma Thomas, some underappreciated work by New Orleans writer/producer extraordinaire Allen Toussaint, and the zydeco-delia of Clifton Chenier and Buckwheat Zydeco, and you've got one of the best impressions of a city's musical blueprint that you're likely to ever find.

One eye-opening aspect of the box set's track listing is just how many classic R&B songs have roots in the New Orleans' scene. Included in Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens are staples of the R&B canon; while these artists may not be torchbearers of the Carnival experience, their contributions have helped nuance the city's cornucopia-by-committee musical heritage. This explains the sequencing of "I'm Walkin'" by Fats Domino (who still calls New Orleans home), "Sea Cruise" by Frankie Ford (he always plays the city's annual Jazz and Heritage festival), "Rip it Up" by Little Richard (his early recordings were recorded by local legend Cosimo Matassa), and "Mother-in-Law" by Ernie K-Doe (who opened a lounge in New Orleans named after his hit song).

The box set comes with a collection of copious liner notes by a few New Orleans aficionados. They're just about as fun as the music, offering up a bounty of city secrets, lore, and insider recommendations. In addition to the thoroughly researched paragraphs to accompany each song, the number of cultural essays could double as an alternative Frommer's guide for your next vacation. Too often, liner notes for collections of this magnitude are neutered and underfed, so it's encouraging that the creators of this box put as much thought into discussing the music as they did choosing it.

Ultimately, there's simply too much good music included to discuss within the parameters of an article. To define the sinewy splendor of New Orleans is no easy task. Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens chips away at the layers of fact, fiction, hearsay, and legend, boasting a raucous good time that just happens to grasp what its hyped city is all about. The morning after listening to the wealth of delectable tunes, you'll awaken with a sympathetic hangover, tasting gumbo on your tongue, and swear that you were there the night before.





Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.


Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.


JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.


All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.


Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.


Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.


Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.


'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.


Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.


Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.